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Finger Picking Guitar How To Play Bass Runs

By Mike Hayes | June 7, 2010

Once you have learned your basic finger picking patterns on
guitar you will want to start introducing some interesting
bass runs to connect your chords together the way the
professionals do.

One of the favorite keys for solo guitarists and solo
singer/guitarists is the key of “G”; so what better place to
start creating bass runs than the key of “G” and the good news is
they are easy to play!

Let’s start with a typical chord progression in the key of “G”

G /// | Em /// | C /// | D /// |

Does this progression look familiar? It should certainly sound
familiar it’s one of the most popular progression it’s often
called the “Doo Wop” progressions musicians refer to the chord
sequence as the 1 – 6 – 4 – 5 progression.

Step 1. Use the scale of G major to identify possible passing
notes.

Scale of G major: G – A – B – C – D – E – F# – G

Notice how the G scale has an F# in it, its’ always a good idea
to check what notes are in the scale before you create your bass
runs some scales have a few sharps or flats other keys have many
you will want to be certain you have 100% correct notes in your
bass runs.

Step 2. Decide on the direction of your bass run; do you want an
ascending or descending bass run?

An ascending bass run would mean you would play notes of the
scale in an ascending order, like this …

G – A – B – C – D – E – F# – G

Descending bass lines would require the scale to be played in a
descending fashion, like this …

G – F# – E – D – C – B – A – G

Whether you choose an ascending or descending bass run will
depend on (a) the style of song; (b) how many beats you have to
work with and (c) your own personal preference.

Step 3. Identify notes of the scale that have the same letter
name as the chords in your progression.

G /// | Em /// |

I’m going to use a descending bass run because the first two
chords in the progression are very close alphabetically to each
other so I won’t have a chance to add too many bass notes; also I
want to keep the chord progression uncluttered so I’ll have the
chords move at the rate of two chords to the bar, therefore one
additional bass note will do just fine.

Back to the descending scale to identify the notes of the same
name as the chords in the progression.

Chord progression:

G /// | Em /// |

descending scale:

G – F# – E – D – C – B – A – G

descending scale with bass notes selected indicated as []:

[G] – F# – [E] – D – C – B – A – G

As you can see there is a note that exists between the notes “G”
and “E”, that note is F# this would be the ideal bass note for
our run.

Here are two versions of the original progression using
substitute chords.

Re harmonized chord progression version 1:

G / G/F# / | Em /// |

Re harmonized chord progression version 2:

G / D2/F# / | Em /// |

Both chord sequences will work, ultimately it will depend on the
song and the mood you want to create, here is some examples of
how these progressions could be played on guitar using a standard
4/4 time finger picking pattern.

G
———-3–
——-0—–
—-0——–
————-
————-
-3———–

G/F#
———-3–
——-0—–
—-0——–
————-
————-
-2———–

Em
———-0– etc
——-0—–
—-0——–
————-
————-
-0———–

or …

G
———-3–
——-0—–
—-0——–
————-
————-
-3———–

D2/F#
———-0–
——-3—–
—-2——–
————-
————-
-2———–

Em
———-0– etc
——-0—–
—-0——–
————-
————-
-0———–

The D2/F# chord could be played as a D/F# I’ve opted for the
suspended second chord in this example as it (a) helps open up
the chord; (b) give a hint of the next chord in the progression
(Em) it’s time for you to try these bass runs on your guitar.

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